Will power is a single use item
Often when people try to make a lifestyle change or be a bit healthier and are finding it difficult, I’ll often hear them say “I just don’t have enough will power” or “I just can’t motivate myself” and often those beliefs come from other people. They’ve seen friends or people on social media who have made these type of changes successfully and when you ask how they did it they will say, ‘Oh, I just got to a point where I really wanted it, you’ve just got to be willing to sacrifice, just got to have the will to change’. And so, we interpret that as having will power.
The problem is that it doesn’t translate to any action and it doesn’t take into account the difficulty of actually overcoming your psychology around behaviours and why we do things. So, when you think of people that have strong will power, you often see them doing lots of healthy behaviours, their energy levels seem super human and their ability to say no to a piece of chocolate seems like some sort of witchcraft. They seem to be so strong that they can exercise will power all the time! In reality, will power is really a one-off moment. It’s that moment of choice where you have option A or option B and you must execute a moment of control or action for a fraction of a second. Just long enough to start pursuing the action you need.
So the hard part with this and the thing that I see in people do less effectively is that it’s often trying to use will power to stop a certain behaviour. For example, stopping drinking alcohol on a Friday. Now imagine that moment rolls around where you had a big week and all your friends are saying, ‘Hey, let’s all go grab a drink’ and you have to have that moment of will power so the hard part there is that instead of just stopping an action, you haven’t created anything to replace it with. It’s just stop doing that thing you really enjoy. Unless, you can create something to fill that void that is equally motivating for you or at least creating some sort of balance then, the odds of actually going through with it are minimal. And, why would we even expect that to be successful? So, usually, when I’m looking at a behavior changes with clients I encourage them to think about the actions they want ADD to their lives so we’re talking about adding into your lifestyle not taking something away, not a restriction. So, you might say, ‘Okay, before I go to pub, I want to go for a run.’ So, your will power then becomes, ‘Okay in the morning, I need to have the will power to pack my bag, to prepare.’ And then at 4o’clock when people knock off early and want to go to the pub, you say, ‘All right, that’s fine. I’m just going to go for a quick run. I’ll meet you there!’ So, suddenly, the will power is applied to a positive action and it seems much more approachable even reading it now sounds a lot easier than ‘Hey, I’m going to not to have any drinks on a Friday.’
By doing those actions and adding positivity into your lifestyle, you’ll find that the habits and the actions that you want to change or reduce become a lot easier to manage. It also reinforces the fact that you do have some power, you do have the capacity to make change, you do have control of your own life. If you have to generate a massive amount of energy to motivate yourself to do something, it probably means you’re trying too much for too much and you won’t be able to sustain it. Think of your social circle, the people you really want to learn from are the ones that don’t even seem to try. They’re the ones that never seem to struggle. They’re the ones that seem to just go around their day-to-day life and everything seems to be in balance. They exercise. They eat healthy but they still have fun and they seem to have the perfect master of their domain, but it seems to just come easily.
They’re the people who probably practiced this for a long, long time and so they’re the ones you can learn a lot from. Instead of looking at the people that are super motivated or even listening to personal trainers on YouTube to get psyched up, you know the ones who tell you “you’ve just got to want it!!” implying if you don’t, there’s something wrong with you. Have a look at the people closer to you and have a look at how they apply their will power and I guarantee you, it just comes in short one-minute bursts where they want to do something valuable in their lives. Not restrictive. Not punishing they’re adding something in that’s going to enhance their lifestyle and make those other changes a bit easier and ultimately, create a balance which is much easier to maintain.